Posts Tagged ‘Economy’

Maybe Obama Should Kick Boehner’s Ass (it’s good to be back!)

June 10, 2010

Not that anyone noticed, but this blog has been on hiatus since April 28 since the writer (me in the 3rd person) has been too busy making a living at his real job. But that’s not to say I have had my head in the sand all that time, except for a week in Boca Raton when I literally had my head in the sand on those beautiful, un-BP-tarnished beaches. I’ve been following the news, and letting my mind wander back and forth across the political spectrum, trying to suss-out what the hell all those mopes in DC are up to. Or in the case of this Congress, what they are NOT up to.

So much has happened with the horrific BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. So much, except coming up with any solutions for stopping the leak, or keeping the ecosystem from being completely destroyed. Most of what has happened has been the ramping up of playing the blame game. BP blames themselves for the oil well exploding, but they also blame Transocean for not building the well correctly in the first place. Transocean is implicitly blaming the Federal Government because the rig was built under the lack of regulatory oversight that would have demanded a relief well to be dug initially, albeit for twice the cost.

The Democrats are blaming W, because the oil industry was de-regulated “under his watch”. And the GOP is blaming Obama, even going so far as to shamefully call it “Obama’s Katrina”, because “he isn’t getting pissed off enough”. They want more political theater from him, or as Pat Buchanan calls it, “leadership”. If angry = leadership, then happy = lack of leadership. Maybe that’s why W always had a goofy smile on his face.

This whole notion that Obama needs to get angry so that the people think he is doing something is ridiculous. Nevertheless, he was goaded into saying that he wanted to know who’s ass he should kick by Matt Lauer on the Today Show. How silly, and what a waste of political energy.

But then along comes my favorite political jerk, John Boehner (R-Ohio). Today, while pivoting back to the economy, he said “I think it’s time for Democrats here on Capitol Hill to start listening to the American people. They want spending cut and they want it cut now. And I’m wondering, why isn’t the president looking for someone’s ‘ass to kick’ on this subject?”

Okay Johnny, let’s start with you. As one of the leaders of the party of NO, why don’t you start by telling us what you’d like to cut. Since Republicans come with aversions to raising taxes as a factory-installed operating feature, please tell me what you’d like to cut.

Entitlements like Social Security, Medicaid, or Veterans’ benefits? Try it and your career is over. Maybe we should cut education so America can slip further into stupidity and let China and India eat us for lunch. Let’s cut infrastructure so more bridges can collapse in Minnesota. Let’s cut defense in the middle of two ill-conceived wars. Let’s cut the homeland security budget so that Times Square can get blown up by illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico (we’ll call that one a two-fer). Can we repeal TARP and let all the big banks fail so we can actually slide into the economic depression the bailouts prevented? No? Well we can’t cut healthcare because the reform hasn’t really started to kick in yet, but go ahead and try that one out before the November mid-terms. See how that position benefits your party. Will your party’s candidates have the balls to run on that platform? I doubt it.

So then tell me John Boehner, what would you like to cut? If it were up to me, I’d start by completely cutting the salaries of all the do-nothing politicians who have contributed nothing towards developing a solution for any of the myriad disastrous problems this country faces right now. And the first one on my list would be you, Boehner.


The Big Government Myth

February 22, 2010

Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Bill Clinton: “The era of big government is over.”

Hypocrisy is the name of the game when politicians deride so-called “Big Government”. Republicans are often characterized as anti-big government, free-market capitalists who believe that if you put the power in the hands of the people the people will govern themselves. Democrats are thought of as reluctant big government advocates, who are forced to over-regulate everything because the people need government to keep the playing field level; they don’t want to grow the size of the government, but circumstances dictate the need to do so.

Fact: Democrats and Republicans both LOVE big government, each in their own way. Democrats love big-government for social programs, and Republicans love big government for military spending.

Exhibit A: In his eight years in office, Ronald Reagan increased government spending by 69 percent. He increased defense spending by 92% to force a stalemate with the USSR. By 1989 the US economy was growing, and so yes the size of government spending as a percentage of the economy had indeed shrunk under Reagan–an anemic decrease from 22.2% to 21.2%. Bottom line–US government spending was over 20% of the economy when he took office and it was over 20% the day he left. Conclusion: Reagan supported “Big Government” and failed to live up to his “government is the problem” mantra.

Exhibit B: From 1993 to 2001 Bill Clinton increased government spending by 32%, including only a 4% increase in defense spending–the cold war was over and 9/11 was unimaginable at the time. But Clinton’s numbers benefit from a booming economy that equated to a government spending decrease from 21.4% to 18.5%. In my book a 2.9% decrease is a wash when you factor in the technology boom of the internet and the lack of any serious military threat. Bottom line: Clinton’s government spent more than his predecessors, just like Reagan.

W increased government spending by 68% including a 126% increase in defense spending, and Obama’s spending is scraping almost 22% of the economy–so they are both infected by Big Government-itis.

Here’s the point: with over 300,000,000 people under its responsibility, the US Federal Government needs to spend money so that we have a well-protected, well-served, functioning American way of life. Democrats and Republicans pointing fingers at each other does no good because both sides are guilty. Got an enemy? Spend money on the military. Got a bad economy? Spend money so the whole ship doesn’t sink. Big government is only bad when it wastes money, but that is why we have elections–if you don’t like the stewardship of your tax dollars then elect someone else with better fiscal principals. The size of government is not the issue, it’s the management of the government we should be concerned with. When you put it in that context, as long as it takes care of the problem there is nothing terribly wrong with big-government spending.

But there is something terribly wrong with big-government bullshit.

Somebody Is Lying To Us

February 19, 2010

What I love the most about the internet is how much information is available out there. No politician can make a public comment that just disappears into the ether by escaping a reporter’s ear anymore. Someone is always there to capture it, and put it on permanent digital record that can be discovered by anyone at any time. And now that the economic stimulus is one-year old, we get all these contradictory and politically-charged statements about it that make a reasonably intelligent person wonder who is lying, and who is telling the truth?

The White House says the stimulus was $787 Billion.

The GOP says the stimulus was $862 Billion.

How can this be debatable? Didn’t anyone write the actual number down? $75 Billion is a lot of money. Even fast-food restaurants give you a receipt for a $3 meal. There must be a record of this somewhere.

Outgoing Democratic Senator Evan Bayh: “If I could create just one job in the private sector, that would be more than Congress has done in the last six months.”

Republican Congressman Eric Cantor on the stimulus money that was awarded to his district in Virginia to build a high-speed rail system: “…with this money we can create a lot of jobs.”

Now that’s a switch! A Democrat criticizing the stimulus and a Republican praising it. Well, not really. This next gem from Cantor restores normalcy in the universe.

Eric Cantor: “After all the rhetoric and an $800 billion economic stimulus plan, here are the results…4,022,000 total jobs lost with unemployment reaching its highest point in 25 years.”

And then there’s always the hocus-pocus of tax cuts…

House Republican Leader John Boehner: “Unfortunately, the trillion-dollar spending plan authored by congressional Democrats is chock full of government programs and projects, most of which won’t provide immediate relief.”

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Hundreds of thousands of middle-class families are benefiting from the largest and fastest middle-class tax cut in history.”

And GDP voodoo…

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence: “I think the Obama Administration to date has failed to address our economic crisis by applying the principles and ideals that have characterized our free market economy for generations.”

Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak: “In the last 6 months of the Bush administration we had a -6% growth in GDP. Last quarter it was positive 5.7%.”

But the heart of the economy will always be jobs. You’d think it would be simple enough to figure out how the US is doing on the jobs front. GOP Congressman Boehner even spent tax-payer money on a 35-page report called “Where Are The Jobs? A look Back At One Year Of So-Called Stimulus.” It’s a scathing critique of the economic stimulus plan. Just click the link and read it for yourself.

To which The US Department Of Labor’s Bureau Of Labor Statistics answered with this beautiful little chart that shows job loss and creation from the last year of W’s administration through the first year of the Obama administration:

So there it is–the great economic “debate”. You’d think that analyzing the economy would be pretty black-and-white because taxes, and jobs, and the GDP–they’re all just numbers right? Can’t we find the truth in the numbers?

Numbers don’t lie. But people do.

The Recession Is Ending-Could 11,000 People Possibly Be Wrong?

December 7, 2009

Only in America can a party breakout over 11,000 people losing their jobs.

Last week, revised employment figures came out showing that ONLY 11,000 people became newly-unemployed in November. This is what passes for good news these days. I apologize for my cynicism, but that’s 11,000 people who have been thrust into a really bad situation, most likely through no fault of their own.

I know logically that this is far better than what was expected, and perhaps it does signal that the worst is over and the tide is turning. But for now it still remains 11,000 more people who have to figure out what they are going to do to keep from being homeless, hungry, and hopeless. I know this feeling because I was unemployed earlier this year for (mercifully) 3 months. Anyone who has ever been laid off knows the feeling of desperation and loss, but being unemployed in this economy is downright horrifying. Back in the good old days if you lost your job perhaps you could sell your home and buy some time by living off of the profits, or you got a decent severance package, or there was a market to find more work–even at a lower wage. Not these days.

So while many politicians are hailing the new employment figures-which include the statistic that the unemployment rate “improved” to 10%-I don’t see this as a time to smile or even feel hopeful. Here’s my theory: the reason why ONLY 11,000 lost their jobs in November 2009 is because there’s almost nobody left to lay-off. Think about it; most remaining workers are doing the jobs of 2 or 3 other people, or enough businesses have gone under, so that there is nobody left to cut anymore. Somebody has to turn on the lights and make the widgets and send out the invoices and pay the vendors. Life goes on, but for many people it goes on way past the 40-hour work week without a raise or overtime. Hey, it beats unemployment.

Naturally Wall Street reacted well to the news, and by last count the DOW is over 10,300. So all is right with the world, and the bankers can give themselves millions of dollars in bonuses because things are heading in the right direction again (PLEASE READ THAT LAST SENTENCE WITH HEAPING AMOUNTS OF SARCASM). And yes, 11,000 people losing their jobs is way better than 111,000 people losing their jobs.

But until we are putting 11,000 people BACK to work, better keep that cork in the champagne bottle. This is no time to celebrate anything.

Generation Cleanup

November 12, 2009

Ten years ago today I became a father, and by doing so I have left my indelible mark on society. Long after I am gone my two children will still roam the earth and try to live a good life in the wake of those who came before them. That’s what every generation does. We are all born amidst the circumstances and conditions that were created by those who came before us, and we have to live our lives either prospering from the ways of the world, or trying to make things better for ourselves in spite of the hand we are dealt.

Politicians like to fret over the budget deficit by saying “we can’t saddle future generations with our debt”, or “we can’t punish our children and grandchildren by making them pay off our excesses”. They say we can’t kick the can down the road for someone else to deal with. That is why politicians are up in arms about the bailouts, health reform, and deficit spending. They contend that government can’t afford to invest more money in fixing the economy right now because future generations will spend their lives paying off this debt.

I say that this is a baseless argument for two reasons.

First of all, unless we fix the economy NOW, my children will have far worse problems to deal with in the future. For example, if the economy continues to go south and I lose my job then my children will be at a huge disadvantage. We lose our home, their lives will be severely disrupted, and their future will be uncertain. Plenty of studies show that children whose parents struggle economically often turn to drugs, crime, and (for girls) are more likely to become pregnant teens. I would argue that these conditions are far worse than my kids dealing with higher taxes and inflation as adults when their generation has to pay off government debt. If they have good careers and healthy lives then they will have the ability to deal with it. It won’t be ideal, but it will be possible.

Secondly, “passing the buck” is a part of American history. The “Greatest Generation” dealt with cleaning up the Great Depression and fighting World War Two. The Baby Boomers helped remake the US economy by transforming us from a manufacturing and agricultural society to an information and technology society. Generation X (my generation) has to struggle with the looming transformation of the healthcare industry and its impact on the economy, while the country’s financial resources are evaporating under the heat of fighting two misguided and seemingly endless wars. And my children (and probably my grandchildren) will be paying the tab throughout their adult lives.

But that scenario is far better than having them struggle through poverty as children. The US government needs to invest more money where the US consumers currently can not. Otherwise there will be nothing left for our children to deal with when they are old enough to do so.

That’s the true way of life as Americans. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, and it doesn’t matter when it gets cleaned up (unless China decides to call us on the debt we owe them, which will never happen because they will lose their biggest global customer and plunge the world into economic oblivion). We need to get through right now with some semblance of normalcy so that our children have a decent life to grow up strong enough so they can have a decent chance to actually pay for our sins. And besides, after generations of mounting debt, it would be more unfair to suddenly say “this is wrong, we must clean this up right now” and start slashing things like infrastructure, social services, and more jobs. That would be far worse that pushing it off for another time.

So I say we keep kicking the can down the road until future generations are strong enough and better suited to pick up that can and throw it in the trash where it belongs. Spending beyond our means is wrong, but so is ruining the lives of generations that aren’t at fault for the situation they were born into. Let’s give them a fighting chance.